(CNN) – The vaccine alone will not stop the emergence of new strains and, in fact, could trigger the evolution of strains that would prevent its protection, researchers warned Friday.
Scientists say people should wear masks and take other measures to prevent the spread until almost everyone in the population is vaccinated.
Their findings, published in the Nature Scientific Report, suggest that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports an unpopular decision to reuse masks for people or in areas that are prolonged or contagious.
“When most people are vaccinated, the anti-vaccine strain has an advantage over the original strain,” Simon Rella of the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology, who worked on the study, told reporters.
“This means that the anti-vaccine strain spreads rapidly among the population at the time most people are vaccinated.”
But if non-drug interventions such as the use of masks and social exclusion are maintained, the spread and transmission of the virus is less likely. “There is an opportunity to eliminate vaccine-resistant mutations from the population,” Rella said.
The team used a mathematical model to predict these changes, but their findings follow the epidemiology of viruses and so-called selective stress, the force that causes any organism to evolve.
The findings suggest that lawmakers should oppose testing to remove restrictions on celebrating or rewarding vaccine efforts.
This may be especially true with diffuse variants such as the delta variant, said Fyodor Kondrashov of the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology.
“In general, the more people become infected, the more likely they are to be vaccinated. Therefore, the higher the infection delta, the greater the cause for concern,” Kondrashov told reporters. “By having an environment where everyone is vaccinated, an immunization mutation actually benefits selectively.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. CDC revised its guidelines on wearing a mask. The CDC earlier this year said full vaccinated people were much safer from the infection and could remove the masks in most situations.
Now, he says, even fully vaccinated people can sometimes control the virus, and if they shrink the delta variant, they are less likely to infect another person. He advised all people in areas with high or prolonged virus transmission to wear masks while others are around.
Many Republican politicians have ridiculed the new assembly. On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves called him “dumb.”
Although the CDC has not thought about the evolution of the variants, Kondrashov said those with surveillance should be skeptical.
“A person who has already been vaccinated and is wearing a mask should not think it is ineffective, but should think that there is a vaccine anti-strain,” he said.
“By preventing the spread of vaccine-resistant strains, the evolution of this virus is prevented,” he added.
“There are two tools in our toolkit to do this. One is non-drug interventions such as wearing masks and the whole thing, the second is vaccinations.
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